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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Grumpy by name – an ageing population

Grumpy is my dad, and he lives with me, the blogger babies and the hubster.  Grumpy is my support carer and has over the last few years watch my memory decline.  Really though it should be the other way around and I should be the one concerned with his age-related expectation. As Nature dictates I should be watching out for Grumpy and his declining memory, it shouldn't be my memory declining first.

Grumpies day outLuckily, we are a very honest family and no topic is really out of bounds.  So, I know what Grumpy wants as he gets older – I’ve even found the perfect spot for his Viking funeral… and I know he wants to grow old disgracefully – and so far, successful.

I know and appreciate that Grumpy wants to grow old and grouchy and be the person he wants to be.  He’d like to pop to the pub for a beer, he’d like to eat Chinese and anything else that takes his fancy so long as it isn’t liver and onions.

I expect as Grumpy got older, a certain degree of forgetfulness.  I expect the advancements in technology to make doing everyday tasks difficult.  Which I in turn expect to play apart in Grumpies frustrations. I have very little to worry about presently Grumpy can work his iPhone better than I can work mine and he has regular chats with Cortana and Siri – though chatting to either like they’re old friends is a little disconcerting…

The big question is how to tell the difference between typical age-related changes and actual dementia-related symptoms? 

It’s important to know, because if symptoms of Alzheimer’s are detected early enough, interventions can delay the onset or advancement of the condition. In turn, this leads to a longer and more independent lifestyle.

With dementia figures predicting that by 2025 over 1 million people will have dementia and the statistical belief that 1 in 6 people over the age of 80 have dementia promotion of awareness is key now in this moment.

The below outlines how to distinguish between Alzheimer’s and dementia symptoms from age-related changes.

Was I Going Up or Coming Down? Memory loss
Memory loss is one of the most frequent signs of Alzheimer’s. It’s common for those affected to forget important dates such as birthdays or anniversaries or ask the same question several times in a short period. 

It is also normal for people to have C.R.A.F.T moments

Someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s may take to using more and more physical cues to remember details, perhaps post-it notes or these days, even on their phone or laptop.

However, not all forgetfulness is related to dementia.

The difference is that general forgetfulness usually results in remembering again later, for example, a missed doctor’s appointment or someone’s name.

Difficulty with daily tasks
This is really important as tasks such as driving to a familiar place, using a spreadsheet after 20 years of experience, or even forgetting the rules of Monopoly or Rummy, can all be signs of dementia-related illnesses.These areas are what confuse me in my MCI.

These shouldn’t be confused with trouble involving tasks that were never learned, such as retrieving voice mail messages from a new phone or driving to a new location on unfamiliar roads.

Problems with time and place
People with Alzheimer’s often lose track of the day, week, month or year, or have problems understanding where they are. Alzheimer’s affects a person’s ability to remember events that have immediately happened, and this leads to uncertainties around time and place.

However, thinking it is Wednesday and then remembering it is Friday is not a sign of dementia.

Visual images and spatial reasoning
Some people with Alzheimer’s may have trouble understanding common signs and images. This is related to changes in the brain related to determining colours and shapes. Likewise, difficulty judging distance and timing can make driving dangerous.

Losing vocabulary strength in speaking and writing
Using words to describe an object, rather than using its common noun name, can often be a sign of early onset dementia. Someone might call a ‘torch’ a ‘hand light’, for example, or struggle to make themselves understood in conversations, and these signs need to be recognised.

Simply struggling to find the right word, before eventually finding it, is not connected to Alzheimer’s.

Poor judgment
It can be heart-wrenching to see a previously careful and cautious parent suddenly make rash and unwise decisions. A loss of brain function can make analysing arguments stressful, and many people with Alzheimer’s would rather jump to a decision to avoid the discomfort. A typical scenario would be a sales or telemarketer asking for a large sum of money for a service or charity, and the person giving them the money.

That said, everyone makes a bad decision occasionally.

Withdrawing from company, changes in personality
Unsurprisingly, those with Alzheimer’s often feel confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful and frightened. These feelings can lead them to behaviours that appear unsocial, such as turning down invitations or wanting to leave events quickly.

However, this is a very difficult situation to judge as many older people may have just found comfortable routines that they don’t wish to change. Sustained demands to become involved in events they know they won’t enjoy can feel like invasions of privacy and independence. In this case, it’s best to consider all the symptoms together.
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